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CTICR speaks – 2006

The Case for the Ordination of Women – A Summary

1 The Lutheran Church of Australia’s understanding of what Scripture has to say about the service of women in the church has changed over recent decades. A few years ago we thought that God’s will did not allow women to read lessons in church, to vote at congregational meetings and conventions, or to serve on the committees and councils of the church. Neither did we believe that God had given any women as gifts to serve the church by chairing congregations, being elders or assisting with the distribution of Communion. We did not accept God’s gift of women in these areas because we believed that this was required for us to be faithful to biblical truth.

2 The LCA no longer believes that women are excluded from these roles. Now we thank God for the women who serve in so many different roles in our congregations and church. After reexamining the scriptures we found that they did not support the positions we previously held. We submitted to the authority of Scripture and welcomed the service of women in new areas.
Faithfulness to God and his word demanded it.

3 If the LCA is going to remain faithful to God and his word in our time, we now need to take another step in this journey and recognise that, in spite of our previously held convictions, Scripture does allow the ordination of women. Those that support the ordination of women recognise that there is no biblical command to ordain women. In some eras and cultures the ordination of women would have been detrimental to the work of the gospel. But in our time and culture, faithfulness to Scripture leads us to support the ordination of women.

4 We begin with the current position of the church and say that the texts that have traditionally been used to exclude women from ever being pastors do not, on closer examination, say that. Secondly we need to recognise that Scripture as a whole allows women to be ordained.
In this brief paper we can only summarise the arguments without developing them in any detail. This has been done elsewhere.

5 The foundational texts (1 Cor 14:33b-38 and 1 Tim 2:11-14), on which the church has previously based its position, do not warrant the conclusions drawn from them. The point of these texts is as binding now as it was then, that is, that worship must be orderly. There is no clear indication that the ways in which order is to be maintained are binding on the church beyond the congregations of that time. We no longer require that women wear head coverings or that men have short hair. In the same way Paul’s statements in these texts are his pastoral response to the cultural situation in the 1st century and do not become laws for all times and places. In those days the behaviour of some women in worship caused offence and was a barrier to the proclamation of the gospel. Today our refusal to ordain women gives offence and is a barrier to that proclamation.

6 These two texts do not deal with the office of the ministry as it is understood today. They deal with the ordering of worship in the early church, which involved leadership by various people, including those directly inspired by the Holy Spirit, amongst whom were women. Thus women participated in leading worship. It was only later that essential functions of leading worship were confined to one office, an office that came to exclude women.

7 These two texts are to be interpreted in the light of the whole of the Scriptures, which is the inspired Word of God. Christ and the gospel he proclaimed are the heart and centre of the Scriptures. Their purpose and goal is that sinners be justified. For that reason Christ instituted the office of the ministry and calls people to serve as pastors in the church. To argue in this way is not to reduce Scripture to gospel alone, but to make the gospel and its proclamation
the basis of the church’s practice.

8 For the church to maintain its ban on the ordination of women in our day, it would need to clearly demonstrate that Scripture as a whole forbids women to be pastors. Anything less would not provide a sufficient basis for the church to refuse to receive suitably qualified women as gifts from God to serve as pastors of his church.

9 Christ chose twelve men to be apostles to testify to the resurrection and so represent the twelve tribes in the formation of the new Israel. But a precedent is not the same as a command. The rest of Scripture shows women functioning in many roles in the church. For example Deborah judged Israel, Junia is an apostle (but not one of the twelve), Priscilla took the lead in teaching Apollos, and the daughters of Philip (the evangelist) were prophets. Women pray and prophesy in the worship services of the New Testament church.

10 Both men and women are created in the image of God. It is no more logical to suggest that only the male gender can represent God the Father and Christ as pastors in the church, than it would be to say that only Jews can be pastors because Jesus and the twelve were all Jews.
Indeed, all such distinctions are irrelevant in the new creation, as Paul says,
for in Christ Jesus you are all the children [sons] of God through faith. As many of you as were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. [Gal 3:26-28]

11 The Church is a model of the new creation for the world, demonstrating to the world what God intends for his creation and what will finally be revealed when God unveils the new heavens and the new earth. The old order of creation is transformed ‘in the Lord’ (1 Cor 11:11). The church gradually abolished from its community the discrimination based on these distinctions. In New Testament times it resolved the Jew/Greek divide. Then Christians worked for the abolition of slavery. Finally, the church is tackling the exclusion of women from various roles in the church, including the office of pastor.

12 The Lutheran Confessions are clear that the validity and efficacy of the office of the ministry is dependent on the word of God alone; not, we conclude, on the qualities or gender of the pastor. Those who have been baptised by a woman are not re-baptised, nor do those, who in good conscience commune at an altar presided over by a woman pastor, eat and drink to their judgment.

13 The central concern, of both the Bible and the Lutheran Confessions, is that the good news of salvation be brought to all people in the most effective way possible. The church lives under the gospel in Christian freedom and is ‘gospel-centred’ not ‘law oriented’. That does not mean Christians are ‘free’ to disobey the law of God but that we are free to let our lives be shaped by the gospel and the missionary imperative so that all people may hear the good news.
Today the effectiveness of the church’s mission would be enhanced by having women serve as pastors. The LCA is therefore being urged to receive with thankfulness the gifted women that God is giving us to serve as pastors in our church.

14 The greatest concern is not that the LCA might cave in to the ‘spirit of the age’, but that we might allow non-essentials to stand in the way of the clear and effective communication of the gospel. Of course, we must be on our guard against the watering down of biblical doctrine through cultural pressure. The world does not define the gospel for the church. But it is also true that the church must be culturally sensitive and flexible in the way it communicates the gospel. Paul says
To the Jews I became a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law, so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel. [1 Cor 9:20-23]

15 The church is called to follow this example of Paul and be flexible in non-essentials for the sake of the gospel. The gender of the pastor is not essential to the message proclaimed, nor the validity and effectiveness of the ministry, and Scripture does not prohibit women from serving as pastors today. Our culture has moved on from the patriarchal societies of previous centuries to the extent that not having women pastors is now a barrier to mission.

16 In our time and in our society, faithfulness to Scripture requires the ordination of both women and men.
Adopted by CTICR 26 May 2006

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Why Women are the Key to the Church’s Future

Christian Piatt of Sojourners Community

Christian Piatt of Sojourners Community points out that the majority of those still hanging in within the walls of most churches are women. He says that since prehistoric times men have gone out to hunt, developing independence, while women have remained at home establishing and maintaining communities.  He suggests that, due to changing times, women are key to the future of the church.

While in the past we needed strong leadership, today we are guarded, sceptical and even pessimistic about leadership.  What hasn’t changed is our need for one another.

Who better to model such a resource for our culture than those who have been at the heart of such community since before the dawn of recorded history?

We can hold fast, clinging to our authority, drawing lines and issuing ultimatums, while watching people continue to walk away by the millions. Or we can recognize that what the world needs at this point, far more than another sermon or worship service is a model of healthy interdependent community. And as scripture assures us, if we gather together with the intention of truly seeking God in our midst, we will find what we’re looking for.  (more)

Not so long ago in Australia the Lutheran Church was a rural church with strong Germanic origins.  We had little money for our own religious texts, beyond the Bible and devotional materials. We were farmers with only primary education and we relied on the local pastor to bring his tertiary education to the interpretation of Scripture so that we might be educated.   As a corollary, we relied on our leaders to pave the way ahead.  They were our navigators and we trusted them.

Today, education to a tertiary level, at least in Australia, is almost universal.  In this information age we are hyper-connected, and we are exposed to issues across the globe – even religious issues.  We need to filter enormous amounts of material and contradictory political opinion with some discernment.  Times have changed. We are no longer passive consumers of opinion and theology, and yes, we are guarded about top-down leadership which doesn’t reflect the common experience.  We no longer have the mono-cultural allegiance of early German settlers.  There are many options. Ref 1 and 2

‘Strong leadership’ at the helm of the LCA is, ironically, destroying the trust that some of us have in the LCA.   Those who oppose women’s ordination seem to oppose living together with a diversity of practice, even valuing isolation in the name of purity. Such determined isolationism contradicts their evangelical DNA and does nothing for the Gospel. We fear that such closing of options may lead them to schism.

On the other hand, women seem to offer gifts in building community. They have been nurturing families and relationships since time began with leadership styles that are generally more consultative and encouraging of interdependence. God is not finished with the church just yet.  There are yet more changes to come.


Reference

Why Women are the Key to the Church’s Future – Christian Piatt | God’s Politics Blog | Sojourners.

 
 

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Pastor John Kleinig’s letter to America – Toowoomba Synod 2006

Pr John Kleinig – emeriti Luther Seminary (ALC), North Adelaide

This letter from Pastor John Kleinig (emeriti – Luther Seminary, North Adelaide) was originally posted by cyberbrethren.  It was taken down when it distressed members of the LCA. To our knowledge it hasn’t been readily available on the web for some time.  We post it here to relate how the ‘men-only’ pastors work in the LCA.

More on Australian Lutheran Vote on Women’s Ordination

Here is more detail on the action of the recent convention of the Lutheran church of Australia.  It is even more remarkable that this not only did not pass, but was actually pushed back even more firmly this time than last time it came up for a vote.  There is much instruction in this account for all of us who are, in our respective churches, resisting those who would wish to undermine and change the historic Biblical and Confessional position of our church bodies.  Their tactics are always the same. They attempt to deflect attention from their true agenda, and to keep it hidden.  They will be heard to protest that in fact “they take no position” on issues like this.  There is no Biblical rationale for ordaining women to the pastoral office.  It is a false doctrine.  The one thing you can say about those in favor of the practice in Australia: at least they have the integrity to stand up for their position boldly and openly and not try to hide it or cover it up.

We can also learn quite a lot from how the faithful there have handled this matter: with courtesy, tact, manners, integrity, etc.  There are earnest and sincere brethren in our Synod who do have a tendency to behave in a boorish manner. Enough of that!

Dear Brothers

Apologies for not getting to you sooner on the results from the vote on the ordination of women at our convention!  I know how anxious you all have been on this and how much we have been in your thoughts and prayers.  But I was computerless up there in the deep north.  And I was too tired yesterday to do anything coherent.

The Pastors’ Conference ran from Tuesday to Friday last week.  One of our younger pastors, Fraser Pearce, put the case against WO most winsomely, with a deep appeal to conscience that did much to commend the case to waverers in the middle.  The actual vote was 50.91 for WO and 49.09 against.  This was a slight swing in favour of WO since 2000 but that is rather deceptive for two reasons.  First, in our polity, all pastors who are present have a vote at Pastors Conference, even if they are not pastor delegates at the convention.

The conference was held at Toowoomba in south east Queensland where most pastors are in favour of WO, whereas in Adelaide in 2000 we had the votes of many retired pastors.  So confident was one of the leaders in Qld that he publically trumpeted his judgement that the vote would be at least 80% in favour.  Second, there was some stacking of the deck, so that the much maligned local confessional pastors, most of whom work far from this corner of the state, were underrepresented. But some of them countered this by attending in any case at their own expense.  Thank God for these fine men, unsung heroes, many of whom have suffered much for their convictions! The tone of the debate was good.  It was calm and reasoned.  Unlike 2000, there was not a single case of personal ad hominem attack apart from the occasional imputation of fear.

Our president Mike Semmler helped in this by insisting that the debate had to be scriptural.  On the whole those who advocated WO appealed either to reason or to emotion, while we made an effort to appeal to the conscience.

The vote to ordain women was taken on Tuesday 2 October at 12:30.  It was as follows:

Yes 194  50.39%
No 169  43.9%
Abstentions  20  5.19%
Informal  1
Non-voting  1

The last three categories count as voters against. So practically it was 111 for and 107 against.  What a miracle!  The yes vote percentage was slightly less than that at the 2000 Conventions (1.13%).  This too is deceptive not just from the location of the synod but also because there was some stacking with delegates in favour of WO who represented parishes to which they did not belong.

The issue was introduced in a briefing session on Monday night by two speakers:  Andrew Pfeiffer (for the church’s teaching); and Peter Lockwood (against the church’s teaching).  They were backed up by a small panel.  Andrew was supported by Greg Lockwood and me.  The debate at the convention was outstanding in that people stuck to the issues without resorting to any ad hominem rhetoric. The tone was good as people made an effort to reach to each other across the great divide.  I was impressed by the presence  and conduct of our younger pastors.  They spoke winsomely and well,  scripturally and theologically.  In fact, our side of the argument was put so well by the laity and the other pastors that Andrew Pfeiffer, Greg Lockwood and I did not need to speak at all.  As you may imagine, that required some effort from me.  We made a determined effort not to play the political game on CTICR where we, quite deliberately, did not press our advantage by taking a vote on the issue when we had a narrow majority, at Pastors’ Conference where we could have quite legitimately tried to prevent the issue from going to the Convention since it did not have the support of the 2/3 of the pastors, and at the Convention by not playing that card.  That helped, in part, to get us across the line.  But the most significant thing was the prayers of the whole church and many faithful little people.  Thank you too for yours!

Another observation!  We had a simple clear story to tell, an agreed rationale that focused on the fact that the prohibition was the Lord’s command.

Initially their tactic was one of attack on the traditional case, as if the case would be won, by default, merely by calling the traditional case into question with the exercise of an hermeneutic of suspicion.  The assumption was that anything and everything that was not forbidden was permitted.  The result of that was that they helped us to sharpen and strengthen our case, while they kept theirs in reserve, since it was difficult for them to agree on why women should be ordained even though they are agreed they should.  They therefore had no single story to tell, no agreed scriptural rationale. Instead they came up with a grab bag of arguments, which was most evident  in their presentation to the convention in a briefing session on Monday night.

To the very end their case was a work in process.  In looking back on the 15 years that I have been part of this debate, it strikes me that as soon as we knocked down on argument they came up with a new one and so on.  We were always dealing with a moving target.  They still do not have an agreed scriptural theological rationale.  I wonder whether it is possible to mount one.

Just before the close of the convention the General Church Council put forward a resolution that the matter could only be put back on the agenda by synod itself.  This means that we would have respite at least until 2012.  This brought on a desperate rear guard attack from the opposition.  They were simply unwilling to submit to the decision of convention.  They talked of hurt (as if they had a monopoly on that!) and openness to the Spiriti’s leading in the future (as if we had not invoked his guidance repeatedly at the convention), but it was evident to many that they were playing church politics.  It won them little sympathy and disgusted some of their much more moderate and churchly supporters.  Thankfully a referral motion was passed for the GCC to have another look at its resolution!

We thank God for your prayers.  The result was beyond our expectations (we all thought that it would be much closer). Has anything like this ever happened before in our Lutheran churches?  Surely God was merciful to us.  Nevertheless we, sadly, are still a house divided.  It seems to me that God has given us this narrow margin to keep us from becoming triumphalist, political and complacent, for the issue of the ordination of women masks far deeper and much more important issues, such as our acceptance of the scriptural authority, the doctrine of ministry, the doctrine of the relationship of the Son to the Father, the doctrine of creation, the third use of the law, and sanctification, all of which is a symptom of the rampant gnosticism that we have inherited from the Enlightenment. Yet, I think, we are in much better shape synodically.  Theology is back on the agenda.  We, and especially a whole generation of young confessional pastors, have learned to speak the truth in love, without rancour and apparent self-righteousness.  Nothing has been resolved, but we have been given some breathing space.  The battle goes on!

The old gospel reductionists, who interpret all talk about mandate and commandment as loveless legalism, are utterly bewildered by the change of climate. New alliances have been forged.  Best of all, for the first time in my ministry, most pastors and lay people have openly acknowledged and accepted importance of a good conscience under the word of God, the reality of spiritual warfare, and the power of prayer.  I now feel that I have done my bit in these and many other issues.  It’s now up to the young fogies to carry on the cause, which they can do much more disarmingly than I have been able to do so.

Four other reasons to rejoice!  Mike Semmler was re-elected by a clear majority.  The Church Council is much the same as it was; the two main vacancies were filled by a fine confessional pastor in Stephen Schulz and a sound lay woman, Jillian Heintze.  In the CTICR Peter Kriewaldt, an unsung hero in the battle, was replaced by Dr Adam Cooper, a fine young confessional scholar.  Best of all, we have been driven away from politicking and argument to repentance and prayer.

I am, as you may well imagine, exhausted and yet deeply relieved.

Please share this with whoever else may be interested.

Thank you, most of all, for your intercessions for us in the battle.

 

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New Testament Women Church Leaders

Mary Magdalene. Illustration from the Albani Psalter, Hidesheim, 12th Century.

Were there many New Testament women church leaders?

Below is a list of posts from Margaret Mowzko (Christians for Biblical Equity, Sydney Branch) examining New Testament women leaders in some detail.  She provides reminders that women were central among the leaders of the early Church.  Certainly female leadership is supported by multiple Biblical precedents.

My favourite posts: NT Women Church Leaders.

The Chosen Lady:  The Chosen Lady in 2 John 

Euodia and Syntyche: Church Leaders in Philippi

Priscilla: Did Priscilla Teach Apollos?

Junia: Junia and the ESV

Priscilla, Lydia and Phoebe: Working Women in the New Testament

Stephanas: Man or Woman?

Various Women: New Testament Women Church Leaders

 
 

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Do something

From the Naked Pastor, a Canadian artist pastor

What is the future of the LCA?

It involves turning suffering around, by doing something different than what we are doing now. It’s about improvement.  It’s about moving forward.  There is nothing divine about being frozen in time, in ice.  There is nothing necessarily holy about our structures at any given time.  Not the length of the working day, not the way people are used, not embedded racism, not the lack of suffrage for women – these were all institutional issues in Australia that have changed over time.

Jesus engaged with society, he turned it around and upside down.  Things would not be the same once people encountered Jesus.

Jesus continues to come to us today, to turn our lives around, in our Church. Not just to create a powerful, prayerful, personal piety, but also to turn the system upside down, to bring about justice – even to create a system that works out of compassion and brings about justice.

Of course, Jesus was never a politician or another power-wielding character.  That work has been left to us.  We are “to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with God.” (Micah 6:8)

How might we act justly, when the structures around us breathe injustice?  One person can’t tell another what they must do, but action is the key.  Whatever happens, action is needed.  We need to take charge in some way.

Turning around injustice usually involves changing power structures, and is usually met with resistance from those whose interest is served by maintaining those power structures, even from within the Church.  We’re going to need support.

Whatever the issue, there are people who need our support, there is a stand that we might take.

How might we serve those who are suffering in our circles?  Who might we ask to help us plan our action? How might we change the face of the LCA by turning suffering around?

Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2012 in sociology

 

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There is much at stake

As a delegate to the last general convention of the LCA, in Melbourne in 2009, I wonder if I am missing something. The issue that is tearing at the heart of the LCA is the unresolved matter of the ordination of women. Slightly more than half the delegates voted in favour of women’s ordination at the Toowoomba convention in 2006, even though delegates were advised to vote against it if they feared a vote in favour might split the church. This advice would have skewed the vote considerably. Several delegates in Toowoomba told me that they voted against, even though they were in favour. And are synod delegates a true cross-section of the church’s membership, considering that a large percentage are older retirees and therefore free to represent their congregation? It probably means that far more than half the church, maybe even the magical two-thirds, favours the ordination of women. Yet the church’s official position says that the Bible prohibits it. You would think that our leaders would regard such a situation as untenable, a situation that calls for wisdom, prayer, thought and action. The church is divided on this matter, yet our leaders are silent on the matter. Most members of the church would say this is a situation that calls for wise leadership and clear direction, after a process of thorough non-emotive biblically-based church-wide discussion and debate.

As our previous president, Dr Lance Steicke, kept insisting, “theological discussion, even heated debate, is good for the health of the church.” Our people are stressed and distressed and looking for leadership. The Toowoomba convention resolved that a task-force be appointed to explore the matter of consensus in the church. It was said that the theology commission had completed its work. As is well known, the theology commission has long since agreed that the Bible and the theology of the church support the ordination of women. The Toowoomba task force reported to the Melbourne convention that it had not reached a definitive conclusion, and it believed a new group should be appointed to explore the issue once again, drawing on the many papers prepared by the church in previous years, and reach a decision about how consensus could be achieved to the satisfaction of all parties. And here is the something that I am missing. As a delegate I would have expected to hear within a month or two of the Melbourne convention that the new task force had been appointed. By now, with the next convention coming up next year, I had thought that we delegates would be receiving the report of the task force’s findings so that we had time to discuss them in our congregations and provide some feedback. But I am told the task force hasn’t even been appointed. Are lay and pastor delegates going to be left out of the discussion until the very last minute?

The church has come to an impasse, with devastating effects. It is important that this difficult matter be treated with the seriousness that it deserves. The life and health of the church are at stake.

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2011 in politics, theology

 

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Loving pastoral leadership after a major vote

20px Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, B...

Image via Wikipedia

Bishop Hanson of the ELCA showed a profound depth of pastoral care after the Ministries Policy vote in 2010. In the video below he shows a deep concern for his people, and careful thought about nurturing his Church.

Video from ELCA page.

I am thankful for Churches when strategies exist for healing and reconciliation in times of division.  At such time leadership is fundamental in building bridges.   Without wise leadership the Church nurtures divisions.  Without wise leadership the Church ignores those with little power.  The following is an excerpt from the video:

That passage (Colossians 3:12–17) gives invitation and expectation that those deeply disappointed today will have the expectation and the freedom to continue to admonish and to teach in this church. And so, too, those who have experienced reconciliation today are called to humility. You are called to clothe yourselves with love. But we are all called to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts, remembering again and again that we are called in the one body. I will invite you tomorrow afternoon into important, thoughtful, prayerful conversations about what all of this means for our life together. But what is absolutely important for me is that we have the conversation together.

Here is the transcript (.pdf) of Bishop Hanson’s address.

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2011 in theology

 

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